Steve Leonard learned important lessons from his first-grade teacher Florence Wilson.
She taught her students to get organized and motivated and to take school seriously.
Leonard paid attention.
Now, he is owner-operator of Leonard Management, which owns McDonald’s restaurants in Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota, and is donating $20,000 in school supplies at 12 of its locations.
In Fremont alone, it donated 125 school supply kits to teachers in the Fremont Public Schools, Archbishop Bergan Catholic and Trinity Lutheran schools systems.
On Wednesday, Leonard greeted teachers who filtered into the McDonald’s restaurant in Fremont to get their kits and be treated to refreshments.
Masked teachers peered into bags containing supplies and registered for prizes.
Leonard said the kit idea came about, because he has sisters who were teachers.
“They always talked about all the money they had to spend out of their own pocket each school year,” he said.
Leonard wondered if the company could help teachers this year.
Each kit contains pencils, dry erase markers, Post-It Notes, paper, hand sanitizer, tissue, permanent markers and other items all contained in a reusable plastic bag.
Leonard planned the giveaway a while ago.
Then came the coronavirus outbreak.
Leonard figured if schools shut down, the giveaway couldn’t occur.
Then he learned most schools will try to have either full- or part-time classroom sessions.
So the company has gone ahead with the teacher kit distribution.
“We created an online signup,” he said. “(Teachers) could sign up in 30-minute increments. I think we have 20 teachers coming every 30 minutes.”
It wasn’t quite the social event he’d hoped to see.
“The one thing we can’t do is have (teachers) take their masks off and socialize — which I thought would be a great way to do it — so they could see some of their peers and socialize a little before school starts,” Leonard said.
At one location, however, Leonard saw some teachers improvise. When he looked out of the window at an Omaha restaurant, he spotted about 10 teachers socializing in the parking lot.
Leonard hopes the kits keep the teachers from having to spend their own money on these items and running to a store to pick up the supplies.
“We’ve done that for them,” Leonard said.
Leonard commended Marla Snyder, director of marketing and community relations, for her work with the project.
“We’ve got to give Marla a lot of credit. She came up with all the ideas around it — the kit and what we put in it,” he said.
Snyder said many teachers have expressed their thanks and new instructors are among the grateful educators.
“This is their first year of teaching and to go into a pandemic, teaching with all the unknowns, they’re very nervous. This has taken a lot of stress away by providing these kits to them,” Snyder said. “They’re very appreciative.”
Outside of McDonald’s in Fremont, Bergan teachers — all wearing masks — paused for a brief chat.
“This is going to help a lot,” said Patty Bowman, a first-grade teacher.
You could see the smile in Amy Sund’s eyes.
“It’s very much appreciated,” the fourth-grade teacher said.
Earlier that morning, Tina Kuddes, a preschool teacher at Milliken Park Elementary, came with her son, Gehrig, to pick up her kit.
Kuddes appreciates the supplies, too.
“It’s nice to have businesses help with all the unknowns and the changes we have to make in our classrooms,” Kuddes said.
Kuddes was looking through her kit when she noticed something.
“There’s the jackpot,” she said, pulling out a larger bottle of hand sanitizer. “It’s nice to have that in there.”
Looking back, Leonard said several teachers had an impact on him — besides the one he had in first grade — but he pointed out this about Wilson:
“She got you off on the right foot.”
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